RIP: Poet Jill Chan


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I was very sad to discover this news last week – and could not quite believe it. But I want to raise a toast to a wonderful poet and much loved woman.

When I first discovered Jill’s debut collection, The Smell of Oranges’, I was drawn to her freshness of voice, the vital human core, the open windows of the poems. Her writing continued to move in distinctive directions but she never lost her poetic freshness or her finger on the pulse of the world. That combination produced poetry that mattered.

My thoughts go out to friends, family and poetry fans at this sad time.

One poem, in particular, I have kept in a room in my head for those poems that never leave.


The Smell of Oranges

My mother would ask

if I wanted them cut or peeled.

I’d answer that I wanted them peeled

if only to see her fingers hold them

like clay to be molded.

After peeling their husk,

she would put her thumbs in the centre

and break each into halves;

later separate the slices, one by one.

I marvel at the flexible skins

pulling away,

not ever breaking at the pressure.

Jill Chan


A letter from Jill’s family


Dear All,

The family of Jill Chan would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude for your kind expressions of sympathy during our time of grief. We find comfort in knowing that Jill is now with God in Heaven.

Jill very much appreciated your firm support of her poetry and fiction writings. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading and revisiting Jill’s work, long into the future.

Jill Chan was a poet, fiction writer and editor. Her work has been published in various New Zealand and international literary magazines both in print and online. She was one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive.

Jill authored four books of prose: Alone and Other Flash Fiction (2017); What We Give: a novella (2017); Phone Call and Other Prose Writings (2017); The Art of It: Three Novellas (2011); and six books of poetry: What To Believe (2017); On Love: a poem sequence (2011); Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003).

Jill was the editor of Subtle Fiction at the time of her passing.

Jill Chan passed away on February 28, 2018 after a 9-month illness. She was 45 years old.

Official website

Aotearoa NZ sound archive

Thank you very much.


You can read a recent poem, ‘Poetry’, published in latest Poetry NZ here





2 thoughts on “RIP: Poet Jill Chan

  1. Julie Chan

    Dear Paula, Our heartfelt thank you for this powerful tribute to Jill and her works; and also for including Jill’s work in the Poetry On The Pavement (2005) and Dear Heart (2012) projects. Warmest regards, Julie


  2. Pingback: Poetry Shelf Review: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 | NZ Poetry Shelf

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